The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

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170                           THE INSTRUMENTS, THE SOUNDS, THE PERFORMERS
Royal Roost, yet its impact on jazz was inestimable. The group, nine pieces strong, was on the borderline between combo and big band jazz. Its importance lay in the incorporation of tone colors new to modern jazz. The French horn was completely unknown to a jazz context of this nature; so was the tuba, which had served a crude rhythmic function in the jazz of an earlier generation. A variety of rich timbres was created; the arrangers, while retaining the innovations of bop that had changed the basic nature of modern jazz, added a framework that gave the product a new and homogeneous texture. The soloists, at one time or another, included Kai Winding and Jay Jay Johnson, Al Haig and John Lewis; the arrangers were Mulligan, Evans, Lewis and John Carisi, a trumpet player whose composition Israel was perĀ­haps the most successful of a totally impressive group of perĀ­formances.
Many combos, most of them slightly smaller, have attempted to capture in their recordings the restrained sonorities of the Davis group. The fresh sound created by the Capitol sides may be said to have been the starting point of the "cool jazz" era. A slightly related application of the cool approach was the series of records made, also for Capitol in 1949, by Lennie Tristano, in which the lines, most often in unison, hinted at a departure from strict tonality. They were played by alto and tenor saxophones (Konitz and Warne Marsh); Billy Bauer's guitar was another integral element in both solo and ensemble functions.
Tristano's group, which like the Miles Davis unit has rarely appeared in public, is one of the few modern combos to have achieved an important new sound without any radical change in instrumentation. The only combos since then that have achieved any new artistic goals with a relatively conventional instrumental line-up are the Red Norvo Trio (vibes with guitar and bass) and the Modern Jazz Quartet (vibes with piano, bass and drams).
The Norvo group, heard in unison and on records from 1950 until 1956, played a gentle, soft brand of jazz that some critics found unique and delightful, while others accused it of excessive refinement and a lack of virility. The absence of a pianist and drummer, and the use of the guitar as part of the ensemble, often left the entire burden of rhythmic underlining to the bassist.